Today’s VIP is of both local and national importance. Carmen Conde was born in Cartagena in 1907 and her most important contribution to the city was the founding of its first Popular University, designed to give access to education to adults from all walks of life. On a national level, she was the first female academic to be appointed to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (RAE).
At the age of 16 Carmen Conde started work as a draftsperson in naval construction and at 19 studied to be a teacher in Murcia. A year later she met her future husband, the poet Antonio Oliver Belmás. Carmen also started to publish poetry and after their marriage in 1931 the couple founded the Cartagena Popular University. During the years of the Second Republic Carmen worked as an infant teacher, later becoming an orphanage inspector, whilst she continued to publish stories and poetry and with her husband founded a publication related to the Popular University.
In 1936 she met Amanda Junquera, the wife of a History professor, with whom she had a lesbian relationship. Her secret inner life and struggle to establish her identity stayed with her and influenced her throughout the rest of her life.
At the outbreak of the Civil War Carmen´s husband became a broadcaster for the Republican side, and she travelled throughout Andalucía with him, later returning to Cartagena to look after her mother. She had received a grant to travel to Chile, France and Belgian to study popular education in those countries, but was forced by circumstances to renounce the opportunity. At the end of the war, her husband went into hiding in Murcia whilst Carmen stayed with friends in El Escorial. They could only communicate via a mutual friend and were not reunited until 1945.
In the forties Carmen worked as a teacher, conference speaker, broadcaster, poet and literary consultant. After her husband’s death in 1968 she edited and published his works, and was elected a member of the RAE in 1979, in charge of the letter “k”. In 1982 she started showing signs of Alzheimers, although she continued to work on national radio and produce important children´s literature. She was a pioneer in introducing children’s theatre on national radio and television.
Carmen Conde died in 1996 donating all her and her husband’s literary works to the city of Cartagena.